Tue, 01 Dec 2020

Tennessee looks to rebound against No. 2 Alabama

Field Level Media
21 Oct 2020, 07:55 GMT+10

Once upon a time, before Alabama hired Nick Saban, the Crimson Tide's fabled rivalry game with Tennessee was the one.

There was a stretch where the Volunteers dominated their SEC West crossover rival, winning 10 of 12 between 1995 and 2006. Some of them were pretty one-sided, like a 41-14 beatdown Peyton Manning administered during his sophomore year in Knoxville.

After Saban took the reins in Tuscaloosa before the 2007 season, it's been all Tide, all the time. Alabama is 13-0 against Tennessee since then, including last year's 35-13 decision at home, and 11 of those wins have been by double figures.

Recent form suggests the second-ranked Tide should make it 14 straight when they journey to Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday for the teams' 103rd meeting. As always, Saban isn't about to buy into any theory that suggests all Alabama (4-0, 4-0 SEC) needs to do to win is show up on game day.

"It's really important that our players have humility," he said. "This game means a lot to people in the state of Alabama, and I'm sure we're going to get the best version of Tennessee's team because it's a rivalry game.

"They have two very good running backs, the quarterback's very athletic, and they have played very good defense this year. We're going to see a good team, and they play their best against us."

While that comment is debatable, what isn't up for question is that the Volunteers (2-2, 2-2) could use something good to happen right away in order to make this a game. They are coming off their most lopsided defeat at home to Kentucky in 85 years, a 34-7 blowout last week in which they made enough mistakes to lose two games.

A fumble quashed a promising first-quarter drive. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano activated the boo birds with consecutive pick-sixes in just over two minutes early in the second quarter, and an interception from reserve quarterback J.T. Shrout set up a Kentucky field goal that made it 17-0.

Third-year Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said that his team played better than the score indicated.

"Offensively, we probably had more guys make our 'War Daddy' board this week, which we feel is like guys that play the right way," he said. "We probably had more efficient plays than we had in any game this year, but it all goes back to turnovers.

"In the last six quarters, we've turned the ball over seven times. There's no way you can beat anybody doing that."

Guarantano, a senior who has become the scapegoat for many Volunteer fans, has been responsible for six of those turnovers. Of course, Guarantano's not to blame for the play of the offensive line, which was supposed to be the team strength but has instead proven to be more porous than anyone anticipated.

Meanwhile, the Tide offense has missed zero beats with the departure of Tua Tagovailoa. Mac Jones strafed Georgia for 417 yards on 24 of 32 passing in a 41-24 win last week, throwing for four touchdowns.

Jones is completing a whopping 78.3 percent of his passes and averaging nearly 380 yards per game on just under 29 attempts per game, making him a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate.

--Field Level Media

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